College Football National Championship Game Expert Wagering Advice: Keys for Georgia
There was no one who would have argued that the Georgia Bulldogs made anything other than a great hire two years back when they moved on from Mark Richt and hired Kirby Smart to guide their program. Even the most optimistic of fans, though, would have to admit deep down that the team is well ahead of schedule as they prepare to play in a National Championship Game just down the road from home. They are up against the giant Goliath of college football, but this is very much a winnable game for the Bulldogs. To win, though, they are going to have to be at their very best, and they are going to have to avoid beating themselves. Here are four keys to victory, and a first national championship since 1980, for Georgia.
Outsmart Saban: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has an advantage heading into this game that no other guy in a game of this caliber has had in a very long time. He knows intimately how his legendary opponent thinks and works. Smart coached defensive backs under Saban at LSU for one year. Then he coached safeties in the second year of Saban's short stay with the Miami Dolphins. And he was with Saban the whole time at Alabama, winning four national titles as the defensive brain of the program before heading to Georgia last year after the fourth title. Never has a guy had the insight into Saban that Smart has, or the ability to prepare adequately to play against him. Unfortunately, Smart also knows better than anyone else just how good Saban is. Because of that knowledge Smart has an opportunity, but it is a delicate one. He needs to take advantage of his knowledge of Saban and of the key Alabama personnel. But he can't let that knowledge get into his head so that he psyches himself out and tries to get too clever. Saban is surely going to try to do some things to keep Smart and the Bulldogs guessing. The more Smart can accurately predict what will happen, while not letting that effort disrupt him from doing what he wants and needs to do, the better off Georgia will be.
Stay grounded: It would be very easy for the Bulldogs to get overwhelmed by this situation. They are young and aren't used to the pressure of this situation. They are playing just 70 miles from home, so they will be surrounding by countless adoring fans every time they take a breath. And they are up against arguably the most formidable program in history. This game doesn't have to be too big for them, and they certainly showed their mental toughness in fighting back from a halftime deficit against a crazy Oklahoma offense, but this is as big as it possibly gets for teams. Alabama has a small edge in this game on paper, but it could become a much bigger edge if the Bulldogs beat themselves.
Establish the run: Needless to say, the Bulldogs have a heck of a duo in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. All they did against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl was run for a combined 326 yards and five touchdowns. That's not too bad, I guess. Things are going to be very different here, though. Oklahoma is, to be kind, not a complete defensive squad. Alabama, meanwhile, ranks first nationally in yards allowed per game on the ground. Alabama will likely feel quite confident in setting up aggressively to stop the run, because they aren't going to be too scared of freshman QB Jake Fromm. Georgia needs to find a way to get the run working to at least some extent early on or Fromm will face more pressure than he needs to, and the biggest Georgia advantage will be neutralized.
Come out strong early: Oklahoma looked fantastic early on in the Rose Bowl, and the Bulldogs were in a deep hole at halftime. They were able to climb out of it thanks to their running game and their defense - and because Baker Mayfield looked shaken up. Georgia stole one, but that just won't happen here. Clemson learned the hard way just how opportunistic Alabama can be. In not much more than a blink of an eye that semifinal went from tight and hotly contested to totally over as Alabama put their foot on the Tigers' throats and didn't let up. If Alabama has a solid lead at the half then I would feel more confident that this one is over than I did in the Rose Bowl - and I felt pretty confident about Oklahoma at the half there.
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